How to Sketch People Standing Still

by Jen Randall
Ask friends or family to be models to practice sketching people standing still.

Ask friends or family to be models to practice sketching people standing still.

Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images

Sketching people standing up can be a fun way to pass time if you've got a blank page and are waiting in line or otherwise standing around. To do it well, pay attention to the ways that the live body occupies space. As Giovanni Civardi, an Italian artist and expert in anatomy, writes, "The body is continuously sub-posted by mechanical force ... even when it does not manifest in certain movement." The arts are often understood as intuitive, particularly when understood as a form of self-expression. However visual artists agree that for best results in figure drawing, art students should learn to draw from observation of the body. To best sketch people standing still, spend time looking at and then sketching real people standing in a room.

Items you will need

  • Sketch pad
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
Step 1

Observe the standing people in a room. Focus on the shape of their bodies against the background and how they fit together as a group, then singularly. In your mind, draw a line that follows the contours of their body shapes popping out of the background.

Step 2

Rest your eyes on their actual bodies. Let your eyes go a little fuzzy and aim to imagine their bodies as filled with amoebae-shaped blobs such as long ovals, triangle-like hearts and cylinders.

Step 3

Draw the blobs. Draw the centers of the bodies first, such as three torsos together, so that their arrangement as a group is clear. Draw suggestive circular blobs to indicate the head, shoulders, elbows, hands, thighs, pelvis, knees, calves and feet.

Step 4

Flesh out the shapes into figures by making connecting lines between these circular shapes. For instance, draw lines down from the pelvis to the knees in the shape of the thigh, and from the knees around the calves into ankles. These lines form the silhouette of the people.

Step 5

Observe the way that the light and shadow of the space intermingle along the curves of their bodies. While standing people are immobile, their bodies are still alive and alert. Note in your mind which areas are light and which are dark in order to effectively convey their posture and also their life.

Step 6

Turn the pencil on to the side so that the flat part is pressed to the paper, and begin to darken the places on the people that are shadowed. Move the flat part back and forth to create shading. For instance, the area under the chin, the bend of the arm, the under area of the rib cage and the sides of the nose will likely be shaded.

Step 7

Erase areas in your drawing that on the people in the room are in the light. This will make these areas stand out against the shading. For instance, the stretch of the chest, the chin and the nose are probably highlighted.

Step 8

Very lightly pencil a horizon line on the paper behind the people, and in the center indicate the vanishing point. While standing people are likely distinguished by the presence of their legs and arms in upright positions, using a vanishing point will emphasize their presence in space. The horizon line should be at their eye level.

Step 9

Draw additional objects such as a floor line, ceiling or table according to the vanishing point on the horizon line by using a ruler to arc out to the edges of the paper.

Tips & Warnings

  • Ask friends or family to model for you if you would like to hone in on your skills, or take a class on figure drawing where live models are used.
  • Observe people in brightly lit spaces, and make multiple fast sketches to improve your skills.


About the Author

Jen Randall has been a writer and editor since 2004. She has worked as a newspaper reporter, academic editor, freelance blogger and ghostwriter, covering education, art and design, fashion, culture and society. Randall earned her Bachelor of Arts in comparative history from the University of Washington.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images